Chicago Ornithological Society - Sierra Club
Birding and Nature Walk

Rollins Savanna Forest Preserve
Lake County, IL
June 21, 2015

Christine and Geoff Williamson led a nature walk at Rollins Savanna in Lake County when rain was predicted, but never came. Instead, June 21 was the kind of glorious sunny day that June makes birds sing on territory so that birdwatchers can enjoy their splendor.

The group of 18 hit the five-mile loop trail at 8:00 AM and didn't make it back to the cars until almost 1:30 PM. It was really hard to rush along paths between gorgeous prairie flowers and foliage, prairie pothole ponds and many many birds.

A cool northwest wind was in our faces during the early part of the day, so butterfly sightings were fewer than usual. We did notch up nice species like Mourning Cloak, Great Spangled Fritillary, Spring Azure, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Pearl Crescent and Least Skipper.

Dragonflies were plentiful, on the other hand, with Black Saddlebags, Common Green Darners and Twelve-spotted Skimmers. Male and female Eastern Pondhawks also were present as well as a Carolina/Red Saddlebags. Northern Bluet damselflies also were abundant.


photo by Geoff Williamson

Male Bobolinks were very evident as they performed their ardent display flights over their territories. Female Bobolinks, like the one above, were present, but harder to spot since they were either sitting on nests or feeding nestlings.


photo by Oded Ovadia

No one likes Brown-headed Cowbirds because of their parasitic nesting habit, but the males of the species really are beautiful if you take the time to look at them.


photo by Oded Ovadia

Gary and Fernando took advantage of a floating dock over a prairie pond to take a break during the hike.


photo by Oded Ovadia

Everyone took a break at the overlook near Rollins' largest lake. A Trumpeter Swan was present among a group of Mute Swans, while breeding Gadwalls included eight ducklings, not a sight you see often in northern Illinois.


photo by Oded Ovadia

Our troopers remained focused on seeing - not just hearing - the elusive trickster of the prairie, the Henslow's Sparrow. We all scanned a lot of acres looking for a small brown job sitting high enough on a stalk to be able to see him.


photo by Geoff Williamson

And here is the prize sighting: A male Henslow's Sparrow in full view for a change. Most birders hadn't had such a perfect look at a Henslow's in years or ever!


photo by Nicholas Krause

Sharp-eyed Nicholas noticed a bright red Prairie Crayfish leaving its mud dwelling to trundle around a pond's marshy edge, looking for small creatures to eat..


photo by Nicholas Krause

This impressive mud structure is a Prairie Crayfish den.



photo by Oded Ovadia

Our long walk also afforded Oded a chance to capture a lovely picture of a Mourning Dove seeking shade in a small tree. This is another species that birders don't look at closely enough, often enough.


photo by Geoff Williamson

Geoff took this photo of one of the two Orchard Orioles we saw. The other sighting was of an immature male.


photo by Oded Ovadia

Painted Turtles also were common in the Rollins' acquatic habitats.


photo by Oded Ovadia

As were Sedge Wrens, like the male singing above. Their cousins, Marsh Wrens, were present in smaller numbers in marshy areas.

In all the COS-Sierra Group saw 57 species of birds; nine species of butterflies; six species of dragonflies; three mammal species; two kinds of turtles; one gaudy orange-and-black beetle that remains to be identified; and a fast-moving slug.

Many thanks to everyone who joined the trip, made the long walk and helped spot so many plants, animals and insects for us all to look at.


Now for the lists....

List of birds species, with number observed.

Mute Swan 12
Trumpeter Swan 1
Gadwall 14 (including 8 young)
Mallard 5 (one female on nest)

Pied-billed Grebe 3

Double-crested Cormorant 1

Great Blue Heron 6
Great Egret 3

Turkey Vulture 2

Osprey 1

Red-tailed Hawk 2

Killdeer 3

Ring-billed Gull 6

Mourning Dove 3

Yellow-billed Cuckoo 1 (heard only)

Chimney Swift 1

Red-bellied Woodpecker 4
Downy Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker 6

Eastern Wood-Pewee 3
Willow Flycatcher 2
Eastern Kingbird 6 (with two attending a nest)

Warbling Vireo 3

Blue Jay 4
American Crow 1

Tree Swallow 47
Barn Swallow 10

Black-capped Chickadee 1

White-breasted Nuthatch 1

House Wren 1
Sedge Wren 9
Marsh Wren 4

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 2

Eastern Bluebird 2
American Robin 27

Brown Thrasher 1

European Starling 3

Cedar Waxwing 25

Common Yellowthroat 50
Yellow Warbler 2

Field Sparrow 1
Savannah Sparrow 1
Henslow's Sparrow 6
Song Sparrow 63 (!)
Swamp Sparrow 3

Northern Cardinal 2
Indigo Bunting 2

Bobolink 28
Red-winged Blackbird 84
Eastern Meadowlark 8
Common Grackle 5
Brown-headed Cowbird 9
Orchard Oriole 2
Baltimore Oriole 4

House Finch 2
American Goldfinch 18

House Sparrow 12

List of mammal species, with number observed.

Northern Short-tailed Shrew 1

Eastern Chipmunk 2

Muskrat 1

List of butterfly species, with number observed.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail 1

Cabbage White 9

Clouded Sulphur 4

Spring Azure 3

Great Spangle Fritillary 3
Pearl Crescent 1
Mourning Cloak

Monarch 5

Least Skipper 6

List of dragonfly species, with number observed.

Common Green Darner 4

Eastern Pondhawk 2
Widow Skimmer 1
Twelve-spotted Skimmer 5
Carolina/Red Saddlebags 1
Black Saddlebags 10

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This page was last updated on 22 June 2015.
Contact Geoff Williamson with any comments, updates or suggestions.